What a funky little 1960s era park! In the middle of, literally, no where. A very windy day (30-40 mph) so we hunkered down indoors till early evening when the wind calmed down. Then enjoyed a nice hike around this canyonland park, dodging fire ants (pronounced "fahr aints" in this neck of the woods).
The best part was the drive from the park the next day. Near Quitaque, TX, we spotted the best ranch name ever: Middle Age Spread!
We drove by Caprock Canyon State Park, which wasn't very far away--we'll try that if we're in the area again.
Thursday: Lunch in Amarillo, Texas
We finally caved and stopped at the well-advertised tourist trap: The Big Texan. Its claim to fame is the stage inside where big eaters attempt to down a 72-oz steak (plus all the fixings--potato, salad, shrimp cocktail) in under an hour. If they fail, they have to pay for the darn thing, which is quite expensive. No one was making the attempt when we stopped for lunch, but that was OK. It was an experience, and the food wasn't bad.
Texas Still Life
Thursday: Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Canyon, TX (Texas' Grand Canyon)
Beautiful park. Only about 30 miles south of I-40 and definitely better than any of the Amarillo-area CGs. The drive here was spectacular, as we crossed the eastern end of the canyon driving north from Copper Break. You're just driving along, flat West Texas views, and then the road drops way more than 10% down into a gorgeous canyon. We only made 25 mph climbing up the other side. Then it was back to "Wide Open Spaces"
until we finished our Amarillo business and headed back down south to the western side of the canyon.
The temperatures fluctuate dramatically from the bottom of the canyon (much hotter)
to the rim (much windier)
Thank goodness we were visiting in April. We hear that the summer temps can be 110 or more.
If we come back again, we want to be sure to bring our boots and check out the riding stables. The trails are pretty rough in the canyon, so doing it from horseback seems like a really good idea.
There is also a really great museum and art shop. Check out Martha's upscale cousin--a $1500 turquoise mosaic skull spotted at Palo Duro Canyon State Park store, which had surprisingly good art for sale. I was talked off the ledge, but boy he'd look good over our fireplace.
Friday: Surgarite Canyon State Park, near Raton, NM
We spent Wednesday morning driving up the rest of the Panhandle, through tiny little towns and lots and lots of nothing. Our big score was finding a self-service truck/RV wash. We were able to wash off much of the many layers we've been accumulating: the snow slush of our first week crossing the Sierras, the heavy duty day-glo pollen of Louisiana and Arkansas, and the major bugs of Texas. $15 dollar later, Rocksie looked much, much better.
Then we made it into the upper NE corner of NM, intending to recreate last fall's delight with NM state parks. Whoops. I guess they aren't quite all the same. This one was way up the side of a mountain and had tons of interesting history (ruins of an early 20th century coal mining town), but was terribly run down. We were just beginning to acclimate to the altitude (about 8000') so no huge hikes. Snow melt had the river running, with lots of mud great for studying animal tracks.
Saturday: Southern Colorado
We have intended to get to this national park so many times that we just couldn't miss it again. You see, I first learned of this park in 2002 while working on a K-5 reading program. We were licensing a charming picture book by Audrey Wood, The Bunyans, which "explains" via tall tale how many of the United States' most interesting geographical features came to be. Great Sand Dunes was, of course, formed when Paul Bunyan's son turned over his shoes and dumped out the sand inside. Well, I just had to see 750' tall dunes. I think the 8 years' of anticipation just about guaranteed an anti-climatic visit. We had a picnic lunch, but the stream wasn't flowing, the campground was closed--sort of a bust. But beautiful to see and now we can cross this off the list.
There isn't much in the way of decent camping near the park, but we had found what we thought was a gem: Hooper Hot Springs. Called to confirm and it turns out they were closed for a few days of maintenance. So, we pressed on to Pagosa Springs, where we had a bead on another RV place--an in-town park with access to hot springs and walking around town. Fun, right? Yikes. Turns out the RVparkreviews.com of a very scary place was the one we thought we'd stay at. We checked it out--no thank you! The Visitors Center was closed, so no getting advice from them at 4PM on a Saturday afternoon since we found that all the other decent parks in the area were still closed for the winter (contrary to our Good Sam book!).
The last piece of business we had in that city was to look up two friends of friends, who also happened to own the best bakery in town, which we'd read about in Sunset magazine. I'd had this clipping in our travel file for ages!
Of course, they had gone home this late in the day, so we didn't get to meet them. But we did manage to buy a small round of rustic bread and a slice of apple-blueberry pie to compensate for the day we were having. Pretty tasty the next morning.
And we hit the road again close to 5PM, heading toward Durango where we were pretty sure there'd be open parks. Here's the terrain we crossed. Yikes!
Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado (10,850')We made it to Bayfield, Colorado, and an open RV park. However, we heard faint strains of banjo music, so we carried on one more drive to the Sky Ute Casino, Ignacio, CO. This brand-new place got 9s and 10s in RVParkReviews and it was just what we needed after 9 days of state and national parks. We managed to clean the coach, do laundry, soak/swim/work out, eat out, and do a little shopping and gambling (only $15 between the two of us). Felt nice not to drive for a day, too.
The "lazy-river" swimming pool--there's a current and you can float all the way around. Nice hot tub and gym, too, which we desperately needed and used. It's the first time we've done laundry and been able to swim in the pool in between loads. Nice.
Sunsets were very nice here, and we had the place practically to ourselves.
Then we took off Monday morning. This is rush hour on the Southern Ute Reservation. Took a full 5 minutes for this enormous herd to trot by. Poor Nick....
We took off early, without using the gym as we had intended, because of the weather. Learned that the weather service had issued a severe wind warning for where we were headed to start early afternoon. So we hot-footed it down to Bernalillo (north of ABQ) to miss the worst of the winds. Crossed the Continental Divide again and did fight some tough cross-winds, but nothing like what the winds grew into that afternoon. Wow!
We had intended to go to Ojo Caliente again, especially since we were thwarted on soaking at Hooper and Pagosa hot springs. But, the weather forecast is for big storms at the end of the week and the wind storms yesterday made us yearn for the relative safety of the city. You may recall how cruddy of an RV park Ojo Caliente is from our visit last November....
So, Monday afternoon we had lunch at The Range--the great little restaurant we enjoyed last October. Did a little shopping and tucked into the KOA by the time the winds were really going. Had one gust that must've been close to 50 mph. Really strong. And we've been in some wind storms this trip!
We'll play tourist today and tomorrow, get our oil changed on Thursday, then head home, stopping at Acoma Pueblo, Holbrooke, Flagstaff, and probably Bakersfield, making it home about a week early.
Off to enjoy the best (and free) pancakes at this campground....